In-Box Review
Hetzer Early
Sd.Kfz. 138/2 “Hetzer” Early Version
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by: Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]

After Germany occupied Czechoslovakia in 1938, the Nazis came into possession of both the Skoda Armament Works and its new LT vz. 38 tank prototype (subsequently renamed the Pz. 38(t)). Although in retrospect a rather conventional pre-war design, the 38(t) was in fact superior to both the Pz. I and Pz. II, and the Waffenamt ended up having over 1,400 of them built before production ceased in 1942. Like most of Germany’s early tanks, the 38(t) proved to be under-armored against the T-34, yet was too small to carry a large-caliber gun. Its excellent chassis became the platform for a variety of FLAK and PAK weapons, though the best usage turned out to be two excellent anti-tank SPG’s: the Marder III and Hetzer.

The Hetzer (the German word means something akin to “hell-hound” and has the sense of a relentless, vicious attacker) proved to be an extremely effective and inexpensive anti-tank SPG. Armed with a 75mm PAK 39 L/48 similar to the one on later model Pz. IVs, this little devil weighed only 10 tons. Inside were 41 rounds and on top a remote-controlled MG-34 for anti-personnel defense. Unlike the heavier Jagdtiger and Jagdpanther, the Hetzer had none of the mechanical problems that plagued both of those behemoths, and could be produced in numbers great enough (over 2,800) to prove effective even against tanks as large as the JS-II. Unlike the Panzer 38(t), the Hetzer’s sloped 60mm armor back and front, and low profile, made it less vulnerable than turreted tanks.
The Kit
One of Dragon’s older 6000 series, the kit is a little light on detailing and will definitely benefit from after market upgrades. Its 334 plastic parts include 216 individual track pieces (alas, no Magic Tracks), and are rendered in a light gray. These are complimented by 7 brass PE parts, a decal sheet and painting scheme. The barrel is plastic and assembled from 2 pieces, though I’ll be avoiding that hassle by using an Armorscale upgrade. The wheels and suspension lack the crispness of DML’s Panzer 38(t) Smart Kit #6290, and invite a lot of mudwork and weathering. Again, I’ve got some Warriors damaged road wheels I plan on swapping for the non-descript kit parts.

The remote-controlled machine gun up top is nicely-detailed, but there’s not much to say about the rest of the kit’s outer features. In truth, though, the Hetzer was a “bare bones” solution to Germany’s massive armament deficiencies fighting the swarms of Soviet tanks flooding their borders by the end of the war. And with fewer “goodies,” the kit forces modelers to face up to the fact that many photos show AFVs with few or no tools, added armor, personal gear and all the other things we love to add to our builds.

Instructions, Painting & Decals:

The instructions are clear and it’s a pretty simple build from what I can see. They are printed in the usual black, gray and blue format we’re familiar with from DML. The decal and painting options are among the more disappointing aspects of the kit in my estimation, with only two variations, none of them from the many Panzerjaegerabteilungen (tank destroyer battalions) attached to Late War Wehrmacht infantry divisions. But I am intrigued by a brown & green Hetzer captured by the Polish Home Army dated to the Warsaw uprising and painted a green and brown camo. Did the Poles paint new camo on the vehicle or simple blot out the Balkankreuz and numeral? I have seen at least one photo from the battle showing a captured Hetzer. The other option is a non-descript generic vehicle from the Eastern front with a Balkankreuz and the usual white-outlined red numerals.

Poland Home Army, Warsaw Uprising 1944
Unspecified “German Army, Ukraine 1944”
If you can get this kit for $25 or less and enjoy “tarting up” a rather bland build with AM PE, then I recommend it. I’m looking forward to the task, since the Tamiya kit would still require some extra brass from the reviews I’ve seen. So with no clear alternative, I can recommend this kit with some reservation as worth the effort if you’re really interested in the vehicle. As one of the more important anti-tank weapons for the Wehrmacht, it has been on my “must have” list.

A Build Log has been started on the forums to further evaluate this kit, and what can be accomplished by adding after-market upgrades.

Highs: An important addition to the SPG ranks, though probably not as well-rendered as Tamiya’s middle version. Easy-to-assemble with many possibilities for dioramas.
Lows: Lack of detailing, poor decal options and painting schemes.
Verdict: A good kit if supplemented with after market upgrades like PE brass, a metal barrel and other decal/painting options.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: 6030
  Suggested Retail: $35
  Related Link: manufacturer's web site
  PUBLISHED: Feb 02, 2009

About Bill Cross (bill_c)

Self-proclaimed rivet counter who gleefully builds tanks, planes and has three subs in the stash.

Copyright ©2021 text by Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]. All rights reserved.


Nice review Bill, one thing though you mention the Tamiya kit, I built it recently and it comes with both rubber band and individual tracks.
FEB 02, 2009 - 11:45 AM
You're right, Pat, I did not realize that from the first Tamiya review I ran across. I hope James can correct that mistake.
FEB 02, 2009 - 12:25 PM
Nice review Bill i too have this kit and am currently putting the finishing touches to it and i've also built mine OOB
FEB 02, 2009 - 01:09 PM
i too have this kit, i built my mostly out of the box, with just a few scatched mods... the only thing i found that was a pain in the butt was the PE which was dragon's earlier steel stuff which has to be heated slightly so you can shape it easier other than that it's a nice build. wouldn't surprise me if this kit get's the premium treatment before long, or a whole new mold, especially at the rate dragon's churning kits out these days. Ant
FEB 02, 2009 - 04:18 PM
Thanks for pointing that out, it IS harder to shape, though I'm using the ABER PE and it's brass. They Nazis churned out 2,400 Hetzers, so a 3-1 kit would make sense where you could build the early or middle version. The modifications weren't that extensive from what I can see (mostly the Saukopf mantlet and the exhaust. Some PE on the front fenders and the grab handles would be quite nice, though a real re-working would include PE Schurzen.
FEB 03, 2009 - 07:11 AM
wouldn't mind seeing a 3-in-1 kit myself, perhaps with a partial or full interior, then dragon would certainly have the hetzer market you shouldn't have too much trouble with the aber PE the detail is very good you just have to be careful with the smalll fiddly bits as they tend to go airbourne and then disappear in the carpet. but once on they really make the kit shine, just wish i'd have got the set before i'd built 90% of the kit... oh well might just have to get another one
FEB 03, 2009 - 09:31 AM

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